MINNEAPOLIS – Four years after returning two interceptions for touchdowns as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, Dwight Smith once again finds himself in the middle of one of the NFL's most opportunistic defenses. The Vikings lead the NFL with seven defensive touchdowns this season, including one from Smith during Week 12's 41-17 road drubbing of the New York Giants. Minnesota returned three Eli Manning interceptions for touchdowns in that game, and left Smith beaming about a young defense with the potential to be among the league's elite.
He took time out last week to talk with Yahoo! Sports about the Vikings' strides, his personal life, and why he won't go anywhere near teammate Darren Sharper's hyperbaric chamber.
Charles Robinson: So can you draw any similarities to this defense and the great one you played with in Tampa Bay?
Dwight Smith: It's two totally different things, because we're so young around here, you know? That was such a veteran-laden team in Tampa. It's more exciting to see young guys come together the way they are doing it here.
Robinson: What about the talent similarities?
Smith: We've got some great linebackers in Chad (Greenway) and E.J. (Henderson). We've got a couple of young corners in Antoine (Winfield) and Cedric (Griffin). There's the big guys in the middle of the defensive line (Pat and Kevin Williams) and a lot of other young guys who can make plays. You just have a lot of young guys growing into it. By the time I got to Tampa, I was the young guy adding to that veteran mix. Now I'm on the other end of it.
Robinson: This defense gets some similar results to the unit you played on in Tampa, but in different ways.
Smith: Exactly. In Tampa, we were more of a get-after-the-quarterback pass defense, but we had some troubles stopping the run. Here, we don't have any of those troubles against the run, but we've had some problems in the passing game. Same overall results, but definitely doing it in different ways.
Robinson: So how is your life off the field these days? Are you living well?
Smith: Yeah. My son (Dwight Jr.) just had his eighth birthday. My grandparents are still alive and kicking, so everything is lovely for me. I got custody of two of my brothers, too. They are 15 and 16. To see them basically trying to walk in my footsteps is something. One just lost in the state semifinals in football.
Robinson: You're Mr. Mom these days, huh?
Smith: That's exactly what they call me now. At 29, I've had them for six years. I've had to grow up really quick over the last few years.
Robinson: You're a big movie memorabilia guy. How is the collection coming? What's the coolest piece you've got these days?
Smith: I have a life-size – bigger than me – Batman. It's the George Clooney Batman. I'm a huge Batman guy. I have a whole room filled with neat stuff.
Robinson: You're a big Bruce Wayne guy, right? That's your favorite character?
Smith: Oh yeah. The Wayne family ran everything. They ran Gotham. And he was a billionaire. He was a billionaire and he was Batman. That's what I'm shooting for.
Robinson: A billionaire? You might have to play for a while. Maybe you'll have to sneak a few naps in Darren Sharper's hyperbaric chamber and extend your career.
Smith: Hell no. I'm scared as hell of that thing. I don't know what kind of air it's kicking out or anything. It's the Michael Jackson thing – the Michael Jackson chamber. I'm not getting in that thing.
Robinson: He's never tried to convince you to sleep in one?
Smith: He knows better. He knows I'm not getting in that damn thing. Not at all. I can't figure out what that thing is for. I've been playing football 23 years. What do I need that thing for now? I'm never – never, never – getting in that thing.
Robinson: One last thing: I've got to ask you about this story about what you did to your grandfather's car. Start from the beginning.
Smith: (Laughing) OK. I was about seven years old, and my grandfather was out warming the car in the morning before it was time to go. And then he ended up going in the house for something. I stayed in the car, and I got really curious. So I put the thing in reverse, and there it went. The car went backward and got stuck between a telephone pole and a light pole, and both of the doors had been open, so they got smashed – the doors got caught on the poles and went in the opposite direction.
Robinson: Were you in the car when it happened?
Smith: No. As soon as that car started moving, I jumped out.
Robinson: Man, I bet you got into trouble. What did he say to you?
Smith: There wasn't anything to say. Basically he whupped my ass. I knew better.
Robinson: Well, just remember that story when your son does something similar.
Smith: Oh, we're already past that point. He's already testing me. But you know, that's how it is with kids.